The Body As The Canvas At The World Bodypainting Festival

While body tattoo is still controversial in many places, the modern variant – body painting – is increasingly recognized as art worldwide. Body painting has been a form of self-expression since the emergence of humanity. Note that the tattoo is permanent but can possibly be removed through a laser tattoo removal. A bodypaint, on the other hand, can be washed of.

Austria’s Bodypaint Festival

At the end of the last century the Austrian Alex Barendregt stumbled upon fashion photos of the German model Veruschka from the seventies of the last century, on which she was painted with body paint from head to toe. Barendregt was immediately fascinated by this art form, but during his research he found no major event to celebrate the ‘new’ medium. So in 1998 he decided to organize the first Europate body painting festival.

Austria’s Bodypainting Festival

Twenty years later, on July 12, come bodypainters from fifty countries met in the southern Austrian city of Klagenfurt for the 21 e edition of the annual World Bodypainting Festival . This year they will compete with each other in twelve categories, from brush, sponge and airbrush work to team bodypainting, special effects and art installations. The event also includes a music festival, a food market and a week full of workshops prior to the actual competition weekend.

“I think transformation has always been human, the transformation of the body and the body decoration,” says Barendregt in a conversation with National Geographic. “You can express positive feelings, colors and emotions with it, in an art form that also moves and shouts and dances.”

This year Barendregt is particularly excited about the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples. A group from Easter Island will take on the traditional body painting techniques they have used for centuries to tell stories in July.

Body paintings have been used since the birth of humanity. In a more recent past, artists gave a new twist to the art form, which occasionally caught the attention of the fashion world. But only in recent times has body painting really become popular. Thanks to media attention for festivals such as that in Klagenfurt, body painting has become part of reality series such as Skin Wars and the medium is now recognized as art by museums and galleries throughout the world.

Artist-trained body painter Cheryl Ann Lipstreu , third in 2017 at the World Bodypainting Festival and a participant in the second season of Skin Wars , says that body painting “happened to her.” After getting to know the method, Lipstreu became a model for one more bodypainting artist , after which she decided to purchase her very own paint and make use of the human body as her canvas for her artworks.

“It appeals to me because the ‘canvas’ has a heartbeat,” says Lipstreu. “I love the connection with the public and the possibility that I can let people enjoy my art. If they see themselves completely, from head to toe, in artistic body decorations, then that is a feeling of pure euphoria. I know what it feels like because I have been a model myself. “

After the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, Barendregt realized that it contributed to the emergence of an artistic movement that never existed before. But he hasn’t dreamed yet.

“I would now like to set up a network, not only within the body paint sector but also with other artists and art institutions,” he says. “In my view, it should become a sort of Art Basel for body paint artists.”